tv PBS News Hour PBS March 7, 2011 5:30pm-6:30pm PST
obama administration reverses course on trials for suspected terrorists. jeffrey brown has the story. >> brown: closing down guantanamo was a top priority for the new obama administration two years ago. but it ran into repeated opposition over holding or trying terror suspects in the u.s. reversing it today, the president issued an order that calls for resuming trials at guantanamo. here to tell us about is scott shane of the "new york times." scott, was this expected? did the white house feel it had no choice really given the strong opposition? >> this has been speculated about in news reports. so it wasn't a complete surprise. since congress is essentially banned the administration from bringing any of these 172 detainees left at guantanamo to the united states for trial, the administration really had no choice but to... if it wanted to have trials to renew military commissions down at
the base in cuba. >> brown: now what's the immediate impact? i understand there are 172 prisoners still held there. is there any sense of when trials would resume and who might be first? >> there's no precise idea. they didn't say who would be first. specifically they wouldn't say what will happen to khalid sheik mohammed who is of course the chief planner of the 9/11 attacks. the obama administration had wanted to bring him and his 9/11 co-defendants to the united states in new york actually for regular civilian criminal trial. but new york protested. and now they cannot be brought to the u.s. it's unclear whether they will be just be held there or will go for military commissions. there is another man named nashiri who is the accuseed plotter of the attack on the u.s.s. coal, the destroyer attacked in yemen in 2000.
he is queued up for military commission and is likely to be one of the first people to go before military commission now that they're starting up again. >> brown: the president at the same time reaffirmed his desire to try terror suspects in federal courts, right? i mean, he's resuming the trials at guantanamo but he's still making his own position as clear as we can. >> that's right. the vast majority of terrorists who have been convicted since 9/11 have been in federal courts. i believe there are six convictions now in the military commission versus, you know, a couple hundred in federal courts. but at least for the moment, the 172 people in guantanamo will stay there. none of those guys will be available for federal trial. >> brown: this order also outlines some procedures for reviews of prisoners who are held without charge or trial to be reviewed at least every four years. right? tell us about that.
>> yes, i believe that each one has to get... each detain ee has to get a review within a year of today's order. then there has to be a review every three years after that. it's by a group of... a panel made up not only of folks from the defense department but representatives from state and justice and other departments. you know, in general i'd say that civil lib effortees advocates who have been very critical of guantanamo say at the procedural level this is an improvement compared to just letting people sit there forever without trial. but they still certainly object to the use of military commissions as opposed to civilian trials and to the ongoing use of guantanamo which of course president obama had pledged to close in his first year in office. >> brown: there was always these questions about these trials beforehand. what evidence was admissible, et cetera.
anything new on what we might see processwise once these trials do resume? >> there were some changes made in the procedures for military commissions by congress in 2009. and the combination of that with these periodic reviews that are required by the new executive order, i think in general legal authorities say that they've moved in the direction of an ordinary criminal trial even if they're not all the way there. >> brown: as you said, i think, in this order the president reiterates his commitment to closing guantanamo. once again. but this certainly makes it seem as though that day is further away than ever, right? >> well that's right. part of the problem is that the largest remaining group of detainees is from yemen. of course yemen is in turmoil. they're afraid to send anyone back there. many countries including countries that have been very c.i.t. al gaun man owe have
refused to take any of these detainees or only taken tiny numbers. >> brown: he's already guesting push back from civil liberties group and some allies. senator leahy saying this is not good for civil liberties. >>hat's right. i mean i think people see it as a mixed bag. they're still studying it but the under lying reality is that guantanamo stays open, that some of the people there will be held indefinitely without trial. and others will face military commissions which even with the improvement some civil libertarians don't like. >> brown: scott shane of the "new york times". thanks very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day. pro-qaddafi forces launched air rikes on rebels in libya, and the opposition fighters pushed west toward tripoli. and crude oil futures reached nearly $106 a barrel, prompting u.s. officials to consider tapping the strategic petroleum reserve. and before we go, an update on a story we aired recently about a
20-year-old police chief in a small mexican town on the u.s. border. marisol valles garcia was fired for apparently abandoning her post after receiving death threats. she reportedly went to the united states for personal matters, and did not return. >> ifill: and that's the newshour for tonight. on tuesday, we'll have the latest on the fighting in libya. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> oil companies make huge profits. >> last year, chevron made a lot of money. >> where does it go? >> every penny and more went into bringing energy to the world. >> the economy is tough right now, everywhere. >> we pumped $21 million into local economies, into small
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